By Sherry Stevens 

Parshall, ND – On Thursday, June 25th, community members and leaders; Elder Representatives, Contractors (Doug Neisen and crew), Architect, Randy Lindemann, and Chairman, Mark N. Fox, came together for a dedication and groundbreaking ceremony in a field and building site, adjacent to the Parshall Boys and Girls Club. Before the ground was broken, and after a prayer dedication given by Barb Miller, Chairman Fox and others gave speeches filled with information, commitment, and gratitude. A “To Go” lunch of barbecue brisket and sides were served after. 

Chairman, Mark N. Fox Touches Briefly on the Sage Coulee Wellness Center and Outreach in Bismarck (Please refer to Headline article for more in-depth information):

Thank you all for coming today. Yesterday, I was telling the construction contractor and architect, “I’m more of a ‘grand opening guy’ than I am a ‘groundbreaking guy.” I love it when everything is done. The way it’s supposed to be. Open lit bars and down in Bismarck, the Sage Outreach facility, it’s beautiful, and it’s done. If you get a chance, go down and take a look, and the staff will give you a tour of it now – it’s really beautiful. We also have a 40 unit apartment building. The news covered that, and it should be done in about 3 to 4 months. That is going to be where the women and women with children go, who are suffering from drug addiction, and when they get out of treatment. This will assist in breaking this disease so they can continue their care until they get much stronger and help break this disease that is literally killing us. These are some of the things we are trying to do right now. 

Chairman Mark N. Fox speaks on the Parshall Assisted Living Project:

Thank you for everyone coming out today. This is a project that we’ve been thinking about – Councilman Packineau and myself. We were thinking about doing this about three years ago, and this is when we acquired this land. Randy Lindemann, an Architect on many of our projects and out of Minneapolis, joined us, and we literally walked the field early on, and we walked up and down, looking at the elevation. We went back and forth on the planning, identifying that there’s a waterline and things of that nature, and then I said, “Let’s build it.” So, what are we building here? 

BUILDING DESIGN 

Of course, you see the pictures (see photo with Councilman, Mark N. Fox, and blueprint of the assisted living center) the architectural design, structural picture of what the front will look like. I always tease Randy, the Architect. He does a good job on the design, and every time we build something, I tease him because I don’t know if he watches a lot of Star Trek or what – but every time he builds something, it looks like a spaceship or an aircraft or something. I tease him all the time. He did this at the treatment facility in Bismarck; we were going to call it, “Red Hawk” and he does a really good job. Here’s why we are building it: 

On Fort Berthold, we don’t have much care for Elders. We have many things that we want to put into place, and one of those things is ‘assisted-living.’ We just acquired a nursing home in New Town, and now with the COVID dollars we were able to get from the CDC, we were actually paid back for what we paid to acquire it, so we were reimbursed. Now we can turn all of that into the renovation. 

We’ve got two extremes, one where people could just stay at home, and sometimes that’s not always possible or the other, going all the way to a nursing home. We have a number of our elders we pay for, and the average off-reservation cost is about 130,000 per year between Stanley, Beulah, and Garrison, and we help with our Elders. Now that we’ve required that unit over there (points toward the nursing home facility), we can bring some of them [Elders] home and not only reduce the cost, but have better care – in the way they would like to be cared for. Sometimes they’re very lonely, and family can be there with them. 

THE IN-BETWEEN OR ASSISTED LIVING

Dr. Monica Mayer has plans for building another related, ‘specialized care’ in New Town, so you combine those two together, and we will have enough to take care of our elders. However, what we don’t have is the in-between, and the in-between is called ‘assisted living.’ This means, even though you have commonality areas, shared areas, indoor areas in the hallways here – where you can come and eat meals and do dance, arts and crafts, visitation or whatever you want to do, although you want to have all these things in place, all of these units are separate, and their entryways are on the ends. 

Basically, if an Elder says, “Naw, I don’t feel like socializing today,” they’ve got their privacy, their own area to stay in. This is what assisted living is all about. Some independence with an Elder who says, “I don’t want to be in a nursing home – I know I need to be there, but I need my privacy too.” At the same time, each day, a nurse will be there to come in and check their vitals and say, “How are you doing today?” They can have a meal in their room or share their meal in the dining area. It’s not just what’s on the inside; on the outside, we are trying to do some things too, such as; gathering areas, fireplace, picnic area and storage sheds, gardening areas, and we are going to be encouraging them to go outside and plant things. 

PROTOTYPE

What you see here is a prototype and if we do really well in building this and we stay under budget, if it comes out well, and works well, and does well – Here is what we’re going to do; starting here, get this done and then we are going to start rolling into the other segments; White Shield, Twin Buttes, Mandaree, New Town, Four Bears and we are going to ask these Council-Members, “Put your budget with my own, and we’ll build something exactly like this in each and every segment. 

ONE IN EVERY SEGMENT

When you start adding up the numbers, and plenty of Elders live here, and if we build six or seven of them, we’ve got between 100 and 150 Elders in place. Prioritizing those who are older, older like, over 75 or 80. Sometimes they have special medical needs, and it all depends upon the policies we want to put into place. We are all pretty excited about it and having it here. It’s the one, I hope, of at least a half dozen that we will see in each and every segment hereafter, being built.

We are going to kick this off; I’m confident it’s going to look good, it’s going to be effective, and it’s going to be well – received as we will place the Elders there, and they’re going to say, “This is really awesome. I like staying here, and this is good – now you can come visit with me,” and then have all the health attributes as well. 

Ramona Two Shields, MHA Elders Board Committee 

Gave prayer

I’m with the MHA Elder’s Board, and I just really appreciate Chairman Fox, and I have to give credit to Mervyn Packineau for making this happen. So today Chairman Fox and Mervyn have been strong advocates for the MHA Elders Organization, and they’ve really helped the elders, and we appreciate it so all of you elders when you see them, go up and say, “thank you” to both of them – that’s why this is happening. He, Chairman Fox, did promise this to the elders, the assisted living facility. We are very thankful because we don’t want to go to Dickinson or all the way to Mandan. We want to be here with our families where they can visit us when we need to go into this facility. So thank you again, we are very appreciative. 

Katie Parshall on behalf of NE Segment Chairman, Mervyn Packineau 

On behalf of Councilman Packineau and the North East Segment community, we really want to thank Councilman for moving forward on this assisted living facility for our elders. You know, they teach us lots of stuff, and they raise us, and now it’s our turn to take care of them. We are glad as a community to accept the first assisted living here on the reservation. We are looking forward to seeing how far this project can go.

Jeff Fox, President of the MHA Elder’s Board Committee 

My name is Jeff Fox, I am the president of the Elders’ Committee, and I really want to thank you, Chairman, for all the things you do for us Elders. I want to thank Mervyn and all the Council as we strive day by day, to go on with our hearts and our ways, we ask God for many things and our hearts to take care of our people and our young ones and our other people – anyone who is involved in life we all have a story of our lives, and as a President of this Elder Committee, people put in those positions to help people and but when it goes to the Chairman, and to the Council and all the programs, everybody steps in and helps, and they always say, “we are in this together now” it’s a whole different world but yet, we can prescribe in our beliefs and our ways and our culture. Mark and the Councilman always take time for us Elders, to keep us going and the ones who are older than me, that have more experience, but yet, I am learning, little by little. I want to appreciate that you’ve taken up the buildings, so we don’t have to go so far to the different locations and to take care of our seniors everywhere and on the reservation. We appreciate it, and we pray for our Councilman to prescribe to keep us people safe and take care of our elders. Thank you. 

Alice Harwood, Representative NE Segment Elder’s Committee

Chairman Fox, I just want to thank you and Mervyn and everyone else who contributed. 

This is exciting for us because you know, we will probably be up here one day. Thank you to all of you who worked so hard for our community, I just want to say, “Thank you.” 

James Foote, Representative NE Segment Elder’s Committee

This is really exciting, I’m James Foote, and I am a member of the Elders Committee, and I represent the Elders of the North East Segment, and I’m really pleased that we have a really strong team. Mark is from Parshall and Mervyn, they both graduated together, and they went to school together in Parshall, and this is how they chipped in together, and we got a new school. Now we have all these other projects going on. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for all of your effort and the time you spend working together as a team. Thank you very much.

We just lost an elder here last week, she was 82, and that’s really young, and if she would’ve had a place to go I think she might be here today, We are losing a lot of our young ones that sit in a nursing home because they don’t have a place to go. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman. 

I met with Mr. James Foote after the event, and we talked further on the benefits of having an assisted living center close to home. He expressed the concern of many Elders who are entering a nursing home care facility situated far away, and in general, this activity may serve as a disruption in their lifestyle, as it is often felt as a sudden and abrupt change to many years of what they have come to know. He mentioned his concern regarding the likelihood a senior’s health may deteriorate quickly after such a move and the importance of keeping the quality of life and subsequent day-to-day activities filled with plenty of social interaction and cognitive tasks such as games; BINGO, arts and crafts and just good, stable schedules. Foote further offered, “There is a further benefit of keeping Elders close to home and readily available to families so they can spend time with their loved ones.” He also pointed out that not removing an Elder from their social network on Fort Berthold is optimal, and expressed concern for those who develop loneliness. He attributes the loss of a life partner as a possible triggering event toward the decline in the survivor’s overall health whereas, if that void is filled by keeping them close to home and in an assisted living environment, whereby they can interact with friends and family, the loneliness and subsequent health decline may be prolonged or ultimately, avoided altogether.